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Armor for pigeons while flying?

 
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I'm new to pigeons, not new to birds-chickens, turkeys, ducks.  We have a lot of hawks, bald eagles, buzzards, and crows here, as well as raccoon, possum, mink...you name it.

I just got two homer pairs and one oddball show pigeon the guy threw in.  My goal is to do homing pigeons and trade with my Dad for a hobby.  But I'm seeing that hawks take them out in the sky when flying.

So I got to thinking about those little coats that they make for little dogs to protect against being taken by a hawk.  Some are just a hard plastic shield on their back, and some have spikes on their back.  I wonder if I might rig something up like that for my flyers carrying messages?

I'm thinking, because of the minimal space in between their wings on their backs, maybe a spike or two on their backs might do the job and maybe not have too much drag for flying?

There's gotta be a way to do this. Lol
 
pollinator
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I don't have any pigeon-keeping experience, but I think that since you have only three pigeons and (I think) they would be injured or killed on impact with the predator, the thing you need is not so much spikes to hurt the predator's feet  as a visual deterrent. Spikes the predator can see before he dives would work, as would scary reflective scales on the pigeon's back, or perhaps frightening colors. I'm thinking a little vest, perhaps based on the design of a hen saddle like this one: https://www.timbercreekfarmer.com/how-to-make-a-hen-saddle-or-apron/ covered with shiny bits like pieces of CDs or particularly reflective rhinestones or sequins.
 
pollinator
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Prey birds depend on agility to escape predators like hawks. They are terribly fragile while on the wing, and even with armour as you describe I suspect that they would be taken down easily. In fact I suspect that the added weight would make them less agile and more likely to be eaten.

The "permie way" would likely be to breed lots of the birds and over a few generations breed from those that don't get eaten. That way you are selecting for the "best" (most likely to survive) genetics.
 
gardener
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I tend to agree with Michael on this one. I think it will be difficult to make effective body armour that will not disadvantage the pigeons. However this paper George E Goslow shows some studies of hunting bord impacts that may help your design.

(For some reason I thought this thread would involve umbrellas against a different sort of missile from pigeons!)
 
pollinator
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I do wildlife rescue, and yes, somehow that also includes racing/homing pigeons... It is rare we get ones injured by attack (likely they would have been eaten) BUT they all are "out of gas". They simply ran out of calories to complete the journey.  

Any sort of armor would add weight, something these high flying athletes seem to be unable to afford when performing. My best guess is an average healthy bird would be in the 150-300gm range; even adding 10% to their own body weight would likely be WAY too much. That of course is before you factor in range of motion, heat dissipation, compromised aerodynamics and a host of other issues.

Oh, and those "protective" dog vests have a strip of PLASTIC spikes that VELCRO on. I suspect they are more for owner "peace of mind" or at best a visual deterrent (the predatory bird sees a dog in this get up and says "what the crap is THAT" and turns to a less confusing meal). So yeah, might confuse a bird of prey if such a vest wearing bird were spotted; but I suspect it is the movement of the animal (or bird, or pigeon) that instigates the prey drive, rather than "Ooooh, I fancy me some pigeon/squirrel for dinner".

For several months this spring we had a resident sharp shinned hawk about; I was quite surprised at how many attacks on the song birds failed. I never actually SAW him succeed in catching one, nor found the remnants of a catch. I took to offering him the cat caught/hit by car victims that did not survive - he quite relished them!

As birds of prey AND homing/racing pigeons have both been around for ever, I suspect this may have been proven ineffective; at least with historical materials.

Perhaps kevlar/carbon fiber or something "modern" MIGHT be worth considering...but do research puncture strength of the vest vs talon strength of your local raptors. If anything, they could wear it "around home" then removed for "working"; as an advantage, during training at home the weight of the vest MAY increase muscle strength. I would NOT recommend it while traveling "TO home" due to concerns of caloric expenditure, heat dissipation, interference with proper flight etc.

Do let us know what if anything works!
 
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For many years, dear hubby raced pigeon with his Dad.  Many of our dates included getting up early in the morning to release the bird and even follow them on their route back home.

While I have never seen a flock of pigeons attacked by hawks, I guess it might happen.

My feelings are that body armour would put them off balance due to the extra weight though I have no idea if the extra weight would affect their flying ability. It might take the birds some time to learn to get used to wearing the armour.

Similar to what Lorinne said, they might need to get some "training" to get used to the armour.
 
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I used to raise and race pigeons, and yes depending on where you’re located and the time of year/other potential food sources in the area, hawks can definitely be a problem.  I wouldn’t recommend adding any additional weight to a pigeon, as I think it would just slow them down. Pigeons can fly quite quickly, and in many instances actually outfly hawks, the biggest problem will be if the pigeons are taking off, landing, or just hanging out around he loft. For that reason, having an open loft (allowing them to be outside for much of the time) can be dangerous, as the will be spending most of their time in these vulnerable activities. Instead, I would only let them out for expertise and once they’re done with that, get them back into the loft so they’re not at risk of predation.

That being said, there may be some things that can help.

Crows often attack or scare away hawks, so having crows around can be helpful. If there’s not a way of attracting crows to your location, you can try to trick the hawks. I used to put out plastic crow decoys. In my experience they helped. I would move them occasionally to make it seem like they weren’t just plastic decoys.

I’ve often heard that hawks dislike shiny or mirrored surfaces. Some people put out mirrored gazing balls and believe they work, but I’ve never tried it.

Lastly, I have seen a guy paint large dots on a pigeon’s wing (shoulder  area) in a bright color, like red, to mimic large eyes when the bird is flying and viewed from above. I don’t know what paint he used, but it just looked like spray paint when I saw it. Some people say it works, but I never tried it. The idea is that something with such large eyes must be a predator and might scare away a hawk.

As others have mentioned,  having more birds means each individual loss is less impactful, but that also means more feeding and such. Depending on what breed of pigeon your fancy bird is I might not let it out to free fly, as many aren’t actually bred to fly well and may just be a sitting duck out there for the hawks to find.
 
pollinator
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Just Jed wrote:



Lastly, I have seen a guy paint large dots on a pigeon’s wing (shoulder  area) in a bright color, like red, to mimic large eyes when the bird is flying and viewed from above. I don’t know what paint he used, but it just looked like spray paint when I saw it. Some people say it works, but I never tried it. The idea is that something with such large eyes must be a predator and might scare away a hawk.



I was going to suggest something like this. It's what butterflies do naturally, as well as some kinds of fish.
 
Lorinne Anderson
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Birds are NOT my specialty... but I know that clean feathers are critical for warmth and waterproofing.

I would also be concerned that in preening they might ingest something toxic from any substance "painted" on.

IF this is a viable option, please research that the substance would not affect the integrity of the feathers or be harmful if ingested. Be careful when assuming something labeled "non-toxic" is actually BIRD SAFE, as that designation commonly refers to humans, unless otherwise specified.

I continue to be intrigued with this concept and the possibility, despite my apparently incessant need to trouble shoot it. I can see using something like this when flight conditioning rehabbed birds (I have had the odd one snatched - heartbreaking!)
 
P Colvin
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Well, darn. Yes, I was hoping to retain pigeons after all my hard work.  Where I live, we have several hawks, bald eagles, turkey buzzards, and yes, a whole buncha crows.  They all sit up in the trees surrounding my chicken run and stare at my chickens.  I have netting over the top of my chickens a d I have had to pen them up instead of letting them free range, and I hate it.  The whole reason why I do all this wannabe farming stuff is to be healthier and less dependent on the feed store.  If I'm feeding them just like the ones at the store do, what's the point?

So I figured, once I let the pigeons out to fly, and when I someday let them get to  where they fly home, they for sure will ha e to fly through this veritable gauntlet of predators. The jerk predators
...  They have 80 acres of forestland full of fat deer mice and bunnies, but nope... They want my chickens. Sigh ...  Because " farmers destroy the environment and encroach on wildlife" which is why I have a freaking family each of hawks, buzzards, and the protected bald eagle.
 
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